By Megha Bajaj
Nothing is more fulfilling than a day well lived. here are some incredible ideas to add life to your days, and days to your life
I wake up and make breakfast for my husband, then I watch TV until lunch time after which I feel so sleepy that I doze off till tea-time; evenings are spent on the phone or shopping, and by then it’s time for dinner,” answered a cousin when I asked her about her day.
Long after she left, her unanimated countenance and deadpan tone stayed in my mind and poked at my peace. Was this the same girl so passionate about her profession that even Sundays would see her go for extra classes to add to her knowledge? When was all the enthusiasm wiped off the face which used to glow with the thrill of meeting new people, learning novel skills, and living a fresh day, every day? She was married into a loving but orthodox family a year ago, and asked to discontinue her job, but could three hundred odd days of not working alter one so much? With this question in my mind, I became a silent observer of lives around me. The answers were stunning.
I realised that many people who seemed to be unenthusiastic about life were the ones whose idle minds had indeed become the devil’s workshops! In fact, the devil had knocked in several negative emotions like frustration, irritation, anxiety, inferiority and a constant feeling of worthlessness too. The first in line were the housewives who, in fulfilling the various roles of their lives – daughter-in-law, wife and mother – had forgotten what being in their own skin, being their own self meant. I am not deriding homemakers or scoffing at the importance of their presence in our lives – my mother was one, and the time she invested on me in my growing years was as crucial as is the cocoon to the caterpillar in its journey to becoming a butterfly – yet with some creative career options she could have managed both family and personal growth. After all, life can be this and that, not this or that. My mother discovered this law recently, and is now filling her life with wonderful activities of which you will read below; hopefully my cousin too will soon drive the devil out.
No retiring from life
The second category of people most affected by this no-work disease are silver citizens who have chosen to retire. They believe this period will give them peace of mind, a time to repose, but studies point to the contrary as most of them fall prey to anxiety, health obsession and the thought that they are a worthless burden on their children. In her book, Continuum concept, Jean Liedloff speaks about her experience of living with Stone Age communities in the jungles of South Africa who made no distinction between the words, play and work. They were, she writes, “a bunch of the happiest people,” she knew, and the young and the old, all did what they could according to their capacity. Inherently, they seemed to understand that there was no separate time for work, which would be stressful and tiring or play which would be fun and relaxing; rather, everything was to be enjoyed with equal enthusiasm. How true is the adage, the man who enjoys his work, will never work again. To add to it, the man who enjoys his work, will never retire. Luckily there are enough options for these silver citizens to play their second innings – possibly with even more panache than they did the first one.
Youngsters, in their first few years of college, are also prone to the idle epidemic. Most college timings vary between three to four hours and the rest of the day is left free. Most students while away this extra time in gossiping, hours of senseless net chatting and often befriending alcohol and cigarettes as antidotes to boredom. Rashmi Aggarwal, a student of St Xavier’s college, Mumbai, remarks, “I am so bored of having fun!” And yet work to most (like me) at that stage appears a drudgery to be endured after a few years. So often we don’t realise how enjoyable, and remunerative, certain courses and jobs at this time could be.
‘Work’ need not necessarily mean a job, which is lucrative. Anne Frank wrote in her diary, “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” Working with NGOs serving those in need can be the most wonderful use of one’s day. Most such activities require no skills, the desire is enough. And the pay-off? Oh, it’s much more than money, confirm those who have tried it.
One may ask, “Being lazy, gossiping, drinking alcohol, and watching TV all day is such an easy option. It’s so comfortable doing nothing, and I don’t need the money so why should I work?” I too, had asked this a few years ago, caught in the web of tamas or inertia. The answers were varied but each helped me break free. Every spiritual path believes that losing oneself in dharma or right action is pure devotion, and quickens one’s journey to enlightenment. For isn’t it true that when we are involved completely in a right action, we start living in the moment – forgetting the past and the future? Celebrated author Eckhart Tolle endorses this experience saying, “True salvation is, above all, freedom from past and future as a psychological need.”
Another advantage of right action is that it helps in forgetting oneself. Gurus across aeons have stated that ‘I’ is the biggest wall between self and divinity. You may have experienced an oblivion to the ‘I’ when keenly absorbed in a worthwhile activity. So again, right action brings one closest to divinity.
As I write, I pre-empt a question from youngsters, having been a very confused one myself until very recently. Sleeping, drinking alcohol, meaningless entertainment also brings one to the present moment; it too helps one forget oneself for the moment – so is it not also close to Godliness? The answer I discovered was that at the beginning of any of these activities and at the end of it, nothing about me changed, in fact something worsened; but when I was involved in dharma, something inherently renovated. Both alcohol and meditation give me a high – but after a few hours of drinking, I was still the same person (with a weaker liver!); with just a few minutes of meditation, something within, knowingly, and often unknowingly, transformed.
There is nothing as energising as occupying ourselves in the right action that helps enhance either the self, or using the self to enhance another. How wonderful it would be to have so much to say to God, when he asks at the final destination, “So how was it? What all did you do with the time you had?” Refuse to let lack of opportunities remain an excuse. Here below is a rich haul of options, most of which are accessible to members from the three groups, though categorised separately. Some mentioned below can bring you money, many can help you grow and yet others can gift you the very elusive peace of mind. Use them and open an exciting new chapter of your life.
Professor R S S Mani, CEO of a Mumbai-based career counselling centre, says, “It’s a pity to see so many housewives wasting their talents when institutes like SNDT, Mumbai offer a wide range of interesting courses – ranging from nutrition to jewellery designing – that are inexpensive and flexible about timing. They can be used to learn skills which could be both exciting as well as profitable.” Neeta Lulla, the renowned design maestro of Bollywood began her career after studying fashion from SNDT. When she married psychiatrist Dr Lulla, like most women, she believed it was the end to her education and left it all. However, her supportive husband and in-laws encouraged her to start over with the course of her choice in SNDT. She chose fashion, balanced college and family, carving a unique place for herself in either sphere. The rest, as always, is history.
My mother realised the value of life, only after conquering a seemingly life threatening disease a couple of years ago. Everything altered. She says, “I realised I can best love others, if I first love myself; the guilt of having my own life has transformed into pride at being my own person.” Once a week we watch her go to an NGO called Progressive Women’s Welfare Society, which conducts a survey across the city identifying needy people, who, with some non-monetary help, can enjoy a better lifestyle. Objects like sweaters, blankets, books, vessels and others are distributed. A group of committed women are involved in the process of survey, collection and distribution. Another activity that absorbs her is going to a nearby hospital and counselling patients – offering them both information and inspiration, along with a living example of a woman who didn’t allow breast cancer to spell death for her. These days, mother’s face seems to emit a quiet strength arising from the knowledge that she is the cause for a few smiles every day.
Housewife Sunita Didwania cannot go out much due to a physical constraint, and yet she has come up with several unique ways of filling her days with fun and development. She shares, “I got together with a group of friends and started a creative writing class at home. An expert came and taught several of us the art of expressing ourselves through words. It was an enriching experience – and I am now looking forward to writing small columns for newspapers and magazines.” Books too are sipped upon eagerly and very soon, Sunita is thinking of joining one of the many book clubs that small groups start to read and discuss quality books. She also has the option of becoming a member of India Today book club. The aim of the club is to bring good quality, unique and wide collection of books, at heavy discounts to club members. These books are delivered to the members’ doorstep at no extra cost to them. Each member receives a free monthly magazine, Books Today, from which books can be selected. The best and the latest is brought to readers without them going through the trouble of going through a heap of trash to find a diamond!
“Hare Rama, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Rama Rama,” the devotion drenched voices could lure God himself to come and quietly watch the 50-odd women learning bhajans. Neelam Shah, a 40-year-old housewife, finds great peace in meeting her ‘friends in faith’ and singing glories of her beloved Krishna in bhajan classes held in several localities. Sheilu Shah, a Delhi-based housewife, finds the same comfort when chanting ‘Nam yo ho renge kyon’, the essence of the Buddhist Lotus Sutra with ‘boddhisatvas’ as she calls them, from around her area. Yoga too, by its very definition, unites the body, mind, spirit, as well as connects you to like-minded people. It can be a great source of radical transformation at all levels. Indeed, getting involved in some activity that gives birth to the seeker within is a fabulous chance for homemakers to rediscover themselves.
Those of you who have taken a break for a few years pre and post pregnancy, and now wish to experience the outside world along with your special one complete with toothless smiles and soiled nappies, there are stimulating opportunities for you too. During pregnancy, a great option could be taking tuitions for kids in the neighbourhood. Not only could this be an enjoyable and money-spinning activity, but could also give you a feel of being around children!
Distance learning is another appealing option for such women. Institutes like Mumbai University and Indira Gandhi National Open University in Delhi offer several interesting courses. You can enrol for minimum fees, get all the material posted to your homes, and enhance your knowledge in a wide range of fields, getting certificates on completion of exams! This rest time can actually become a crucial time for enrichment. If you are still not satisfied with these options, go check out the Tata’s Second Career for Women programme and learn how you can earn by getting involved in projects exclusively designed for women beginning again.
A second chance
A study shows that several organisations today want to hire older people as they prove to be more reliable and mature, as well as possess extensive work- and life-experiences. NGOs too, it seems, are always looking out for this age group to be involved in their administrative work, says Professor Mani, who himself is responsible for finding several aged people well-paying, growth-oriented jobs. Contact him if you are looking out for some good opportunities yourself.
Dignity Foundation, an NGO for the elderly, could also help you. It is one of those places that bring a huge smile to your face. You will notice silver- haired people lounging around, playing bridge, involved in chess, grinning at each other with crooked teeth, or simply sipping a steaming cup of masala chai. Yes, this organisation holds an event called chai masti, Monday to Friday from four to seven in the evening. Not only is it a chance for elderly people to laugh their hearts out with a laughter yoga expert or in a fancy dress competition, learn t’ai-chi and several unique skills – but also an opportunity for them to interact with people their age. A lot can happen over a cup of chai, agree Bipin Bhiwandkar and Chhaya Rajpurkar, an elderly bride and groom! Having lost their spouses years ago, they made the bold decision of marrying each other and finding love again. Both have now become a source of celebration and inspiration for each other, and many others.
Another celebrated member of this foundation is 93-year-old Jamshedpur- based Dr Lal Behari Kabi, who after retirement as a doctor in the Tata Memorial hospital, decided not to waste his professional expertise, but instead use it to help the poor. The ‘dear old man’ has treated almost 1.6 lakh patients at home in the last few years for just two rupees per patient. Just a few minutes with this energetic man with expressive eyes that see as clearly as they did years ago, convince patients to trust him with their bodies and blights! The world is filled with heart-warming stories of retired teachers teaching slum kids, and elderly computer personnel imparting their knowledge to watch -men’s children. You too could join them and make a difference – to others, but also to yourself.
Discover the world
Young bodies and restless minds make great candidates for short-term courses, offered across India, be it in typing, computers, web designing, personality development or even learning foreign languages. Amit Bhandari (name changed), a young student from Bangalore who just completed a personality development course, says, “Each evening, after college I would attend these classes which have taught me so much about my body-language, my handshake and communication. The knowledge will help me impress not just my future employers, but possibly also the girl whom I have liked since years but never had the guts to approach!”
Tired of stingy parents? Of never having enough money to spend? The web world is filled with Internet jobs for you. For just two hours of work per day, doing data entry or research for a website, you could earn up to Rs 1000! The great part of such a job is that it won’t interfere with your studies, and yet gives you the experience of working with different organisations. The bulging wallet and the pride in your parents’ eyes, of course, are added incentives!
Joining youth clubs once again could add to your social circle, confidence and meaning to life. AISEC is the world’s largest student organisation which provides an international platform for young people to develop their potential and have a positive impact on society. In addition to providing over 5,000 leadership positions and delivering over 350 conferences on youth-specific topics, AISEC also runs an exchange programme that offers youth the opportunity to live and work in another country. Yamini Gupta, a young student from Ahmedabad, claims, “As a member of AISEC, apart from gaining high level of corporate exposure, I met people from different nationalities and realised, at the end of the day, we all belong to the country called humanity.” There are hundreds and thousands of such youth NGOs and programmes – all for your choosing, and using, to better yourself.
I once read the line, “To enjoy rest, you must work.” Are you ready for some deep rest?
Some useful contact details:
Progressive Women’s Welfare Society:
Meena Ranka – 022-24944641
Book club: www.indiatodaybookclub.com
Bhajan classes: Rajni Doshi – 022-23643851
Buddhist chanting – www.bharatsokagakkai.org
Tata Second Career- http://www.tatasecondcareer.com/
Professor R S S Mani – firstname.lastname@example.org or
call on 022-64526900 Mumbai University – www.mu.ac.in
Indira Gandhi National Open University – www.ignou.ac.in
Dignity Foundation – www.dignityfoundation.com or
call on 022- 23898079 / 23841845 / 23814356
For working online – www.netjobs4all.com
AISEC – www.aisec.org/india/
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